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Trustee Board Meeting 30.04.24

By Mary Foreman, Chair of Trustees, OWN Trust

The most recent meeting of the Trust Board had an unusual twist to it as the parkways and linking roads around Peterborough were at a standstill because of an accident somewhere that affected everyone during rush hour and beyond, meaning some of our trustees decided to park up (sensibly) and walk to our venue at Woodston Primary School. This delayed our start until everyone could be gathered and shows how much impact one problem on a parkway can have. It also demonstrated the commitment of our trustees to attend our meetings even when circumstances are conspiring against them.


Although two of our trustees sent apologies, we were able to welcome our incoming CEO for September, Lorraine Greco, who was a virtual attendee. Lorraine is enjoying an extended induction period to the trust, including being able to attend our regular meetings – either in person or by video link. This means she will have a thorough understanding of the way OWN Trust works before she joins us full-time in September.


As usual, the CEO report has shared ownership with other members of the leadership and central team, which makes for clarity in the information provided to trustees.


Of the issues discussed, trustees raised concerns about the lack of fairness and transparency of the CIF bid process as once again our bids were rejected. The Condition Improvement Fund (CIF) supports projects that address compliance, health and safety issues, and maintenance needs and is administered by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). £450 million was made available for 866 projects but unfortunately, OWN did not benefit, although we are appealing the outcome of one of our bids.


School places for September admission to reception have been confirmed and Trustees discussed the implications for Trust schools where there is a mixed picture for the intake. A concern for many schools in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire will be surplus places and falling rolls and, of course, the implication will be decreasing budgets because of this. Difficult decisions will have to be taken and OWN has decided to agree with the local authority to cap the intake at Woodston to 60. In line with the national trend, there has been a general decrease in birth rates since 2016 and although the city is still growing with housing developments, this will not necessarily bring an increase in the numbers of children joining our reception classes. New schools are planned as part of the expansion of Peterborough, but falling rolls are already affecting schools in established areas of the city. Trustees questioned the CEO as to whether the local authority has plans to manage surplus capacity – and the viability of schools - but he was not aware of any move to do so. Trustees concluded falling numbers are a real risk, and we should plan and prepare for such eventualities and the opportunities and threats this may bring.


Alongside concerns relating to pupil numbers, trustees also debated the changes to academy approvals from September 2024 and what this means for the growth of the trust. Trustees remain confident the work being carried out by the Growth Strategy Group is strong.  Representatives attended the MAT Growth Conference in London at the end of April and found this extremely useful.


Trustees moved on to have a robust discussion of the standards data provided by the schools. We were reminded once more of the impact of COVID-19 as our current Year 6 cohorts, about to face their SATs, had no Key Stage 1 data at their transition point to Key Stage 2 but also acknowledged our schools had worked hard to ensure gaps in children’s knowledge were addressed in the ensuing years. Our scrutiny of data begins at the school level through our local governing committees’ involvement with their schools and by facilitating discussions with the headteachers. Governors then have opportunities to attend the Trustee’s Quality of Education Committee meetings.


Our Local Governance Committees are also discussed at our board meetings and this time we examined the budget position of our schools in great detail. Budget monitoring is delegated to our local governors, and trustees considered how their effectiveness and ability to challenge the headteachers’ management of the budget can be improved.


Once again, our trustees brought their diverse knowledge sets to our board meeting and showed their analytical, leadership, and financial skills, thus keeping our senior leadership accountable for the ongoing success of OWN Trust.